He wasabi It is a spicy condiment that is extracted from a species of Japanese radish and is used in the traditional cuisine of this country. Now, a study carried out by various Japanese institutions has found that one of its ingredients can have beneficial effects on the cognitive function of people over 60 years of age and, specifically, improve your memory episodic memory (remembering past events) and working memory (required to maintain information temporarily).
The ingredient that has been associated with these benefits for the brain is wasabi 6 metilsulfinil isotiocianato (6-MSITC), a bioactive compound that has previously been linked to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that protect brain cells and slow the damage they suffer as we age. The chances of developing cognitive decline or dementia increase with age, and although several studies have shown that 6-MSITC has a beneficial effect on cognition, it had not yet been tested in older adults.
““Previous studies suggested that antioxidants and anti-inflammatories play an important role in cognitive health in older adults,” the researchers wrote in their article published in the journal Nutrients. “Therefore, 6-MSITC is expected to have a positive effect on cognitive performance in older adults.”
Benefits of wasabi on cognitive function
The researchers carried out an experiment involving 72 individuals over the age of 60 for 12 weeks. These participants were randomly and without their knowledge divided into two groups, one of which took a wasabi tablet once a day and the other a placebo tablet.
“These findings suggest that ingestion of wasabi 6-methylsulfinyl isothiocyanate for 12 weeks selectively improves working and episodic memory functions in healthy older adults.”
At the end of this period of time, the participants underwent cognitive tests that revealed that those who had ingested wasabi tablets showed significantly better performance in their episodic memory, that is, referring to those autobiographical memories of past moments, places or emotions that can be remembered clearly; and in their working memory capacity, that is, the processes used to prepare information and store it temporarily.
However, no significant differences were found in other areas of cognitive performance, including reasoning, attention, and processing speed. In the opinion of the researchers, wasabi and 6-MSITC could be specifically affecting the hippocampus of the brain, a key area for memory function.
“These findings suggest that taking 6-MSITC for 12 weeks selectively improves work and episodic memory functions in healthy older adults,” explained the researchers, who now want to analyze what could be happening at the biological and molecular level, since that in this study no antioxidant or anti-inflammatory biomarkers were measured, so it is only possible to extract hypotheses about the effect of wasabi and why it is having that effect.
Even taking these limitations into account, the study shows a clear link between the wasabi containing 6-MSITC and better memory function. When it comes to maintaining healthy brains in old age, including foods with beneficial properties in the diet and avoiding those that are harmful can be a simple and relatively easy strategy to follow. “Older adults with lower cognitive performance experience difficulties in everyday tasks such as shopping, banking, and cooking,” the researchers conclude.